March 11, 2003
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Steve Sollmann and Matt Edwards continued to deliver from the top of the lineup while senior righthander Ryan Kalita notched another strong start for the Notre Dame pitching staff as the 18th-ranked Irish posted a 6-1 win over the host team North Florida, in Tuesday’s continuing action at the Kennel Club Classic.
Notre Dame (6-4) registered its fourth straight victory while besting one of the nation’s top-rated Division II programs, with 17th-ranked North Florida (12-7) already posting several wins this season over Division I teams.
The Irish clung to a 2-1 lead after six innings before posting single runs in the seventh and eighth. Edwards then capped the scoring with a two-run shot over the leftfield fence, for the first home run of his young ND career. Notre Dame totaled 19 baserunners, with eight left on base, three erased on double plays and another caught stealing.
The Ospreys made six errors in Monday’s win over Eastern Illinois and the defensive miscues continued versus the Irish, with seven UNF errors leading to a pair of unearned runs. Third baseman Jeff Millsaps made three errors on his own before being pulled from the game, with his replacement Marion Knowles throwing high to first on his first fielding chance (for another E at the hot corner).
Notre Dame continued to reside on the other end of the fielding spectrum, as the Irish posted their fourth error-free effort in the last five games.
Kalita (1-0) remained unbeaten in his Notre Dame career (8-0) after an impressive outing that included six strikeouts and 12 groundouts in an economical seven-inning, 87-pitch stint. He allowed just five balls to leave the infield, yielding the one run on three hits, one walk, one hit batter and a pair of wild pitches. His classmate J.P. Gagne then came on to post his second save of the season and the eighth of his career, facing just seven batters over the final two innings (with two hits allowed, a strikeout and five groundball outs, including a double-play ball).
Senior righthander Robert Burris (2-2) suffered the hard-luck loss, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and one walk over five innings (withthree Ks), with the Irish then adding to their lead versus UNF ace sophomore righthander Jacob Dixon.
Notre Dame opened the scoring in the second, with senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier sending a leadoff double into left-center before scoring from third on a two-out single through the right side by junior first baseman Joe Thaman. The Irish added an unearned run in the third, with Sollmann stroking a leadoff single to right-center before moving around the bases on an infield fielding error, a fielder’s choice and Billmaier’s sacrifice fly to left field.
UNF manufactured a run in the sixth, thanks to Mike Fryrear’s leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and a pair of wild pitches.
The Irish plated another unearned run in the seventh, with Craig Cooper scoring after a leadoff error, Sollmann’s sac. bunt, a wild pitch and Brennan Grogan’s infield single. The visitors then stretched to 4-1 in the eighth, with Matt Macri drawing a leadoff walk and coming around to score on Matt Bransfield’s single through the infield, a Javi Sanchez bunt single and Thaman’s groundball.
Sollmann’s third leadoff single of the game preceded a one-out blast from Edwards, who launched a 2-2 pitch over the leftfield fence to cap the scoring.
NOTES: Sollmann boosted his season batting average to a team-best .400 (16-for-40), including six multi-hit games (three with three hits) … he is batting 5-for-11 at the Kennel Club Classic, after moving into the leadoff role … Edwards – who hit in the third spot for the second straight game – is batting .382 (13-for-34) with eight RBI and a .436 on-base pct. (all second-best on the team), in an impressive return from the broken leg that sidelined him for most of the 2002 season (he also has yet to make an error in 24 fielding chances) … ND’s .971 team fielding pct. (12 errors in 420 chances) ranks as one of the highest in recent memory … other top hitters on the Spring Break trip include Sanchez (4-for-10) and Edwards (4-for-11) … the Irish pitchers own an 0.96 ERA in the three Kennel Club Classic games, with a .147 opponent batting average (14-for-95), 29 Ks and just five walks … ND’s last four starting pitchers (Kalita, Chris Niesel and John Axford twice) have combined for a 1.33 ERA, 26 Ks, just four walks and 16 hits allowed in 27 innings.
Notre Dame 0-1-1 0-0-0 1-1-2 – 6 11 0
North Florida 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 – 1 5 7
Ryan Kalita (W, 1-0), J.P. Gagne (8; SV, 2) and Javi Sanchez.
Robert Burris (L, 2-2), Jacob Dixon (6), Brian Rauch (9) and Jesse Collins.
Home Run: Matt Edwards, ND (one on in 9th; 1st of career).
Doubles: Kris Billmaier (ND), Sanchez (ND), Josh Howard (UNF).